News In Brief

Chaos reigned along the Israeli-Lebanon border as frightened militiamen and their families fled the so-called security zone and begged for asylum in Israel. Into the vacuum flowed hundreds of Lebanese civilians and Hizbullah guerrillas, who took over several abandoned villages. Two civilians were reported killed when Israeli artillery and helicopters attacked a road to try to prevent a takeover. On the Israeli side, residents reportedly were ordered into bomb shelters for reasons that were not immediately clear. Israel's Defense Ministry denied reports that Army troops were told to be ready to end the 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon as soon as June 1, five weeks earlier than announced.

In a dramatic turnaround from their earlier rhetoric on Taiwan, China's rulers signaled they were prepared to show patience toward new President Chen Shui-bian. A senior official said Chen's inaugural speech Saturday "lacked sincerity" because it didn't embrace the cherished "one China" principle. But he acknowledged that Chen had promised not to declare Taiwan independent and said the Beijing government would await his efforts toward accepting the one-China principle "whether it takes a long time or not."

Two new setbacks were dealt to ex-President Suharto as the Indonesian government moved to tighten its case against him for alleged graft and abuse of power during his 32-year rule. As hundreds of anti-Suharto students demonstrated outside his Jakarta home, he was ordered removed and transferred to an undisclosed location under police guard. But he also was warned that the armed guard would be scaled back unless he was more forthcoming in the state's investigation. Interrogators yesterday cut short their work after 12 questions because of his fragile health. Prosecutors have vowed to open his trial by Aug. 1.

A new crisis threatened Italy's month-old government after less than one-third of eligible voters turned out for a series of national referenda on reforming the archaic elections system. Prime Minister Giuliano Amato had declared himself neutral on the issue, but reform was the top goal of the key party in his coalition, the Democratic Left. Conservative opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi, who urged a boycott of the referenda, said the low turnout proved a majority of the public no longer supports Amato's government and called for it to quit.

Tribal chiefs are to meet today in Fiji to consider the actions of rebel coup leader George Speight, whose armed supporters hold Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry hostage. A senior chief hinted that the democratically elected Chaudhry, an ethnic Indian, might be ousted in exchange for the rebels' surrender. Speight said he'd end the uprising at the council's request. Analysts point to racial intolerance between indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians as the root cause of the instability.

Sir John Gielgud, the internationally renowned British actor who died Sunday, was being remembered as a consummate performer whose career spanned eight decades. His definitive portrayals of Hamlet, a role he played more than 500 times, were critically acclaimed as the finest of the 20th century.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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